Counterintuitive ideas

November 21, 2021

Many of the best ideas seem stupid at first.

  • Let’s create a free software, created by strangers volunteering their time, to compete with the biggest software companies in the world.
  • What if the most effecient way to build automobiles isn’t large batches, but rather single-piece flow?
  • Writing tests before you write code improves efficiency.
  • Adding people to a project makes it later.
  • Two programmers + one keyboard produces more, high-quality software than two programmers + two keyboards.
  • More code comments corresponds to less readable code.

Yet every one of these ideas has proven successful, at least in many common situations.

The problem, as I see it, is that often the “obvious” answer blinds us to the “correct” answer.

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith, calls this the “crab concept”, because crabs move laterally. Sometimes we need to think laterally, rather than following a head-on line of reasoning.

Are you willing, and perhaps more important, able to challenge obvious ideas to uncover counter-intuitive good ideas? Do you have the personal mindset to engage in lateral thinking? Does your company’s management allow it?

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